Thinking Out Loud

A Discourse on Society, Science, Perception, Art and maybe still more…

Tag Archives: Sydney

Art in a Prosperous Society

The great Russian director, Andrei Tarkovsky had once said that “If life were perfect, art would be pointless”. Although I had appreciated the profoundness of this quote when I had first come across it, it was not until very recently, after moving to Sydney in Australia, that it started resonating in my mind pretty much on a daily basis. I think the reason that triggered it was mainly the scarcity of any sort of “cultural” places (I use the quotes to differentiate between the pretentiously and the truly cultural spots, being of course concerned about the latter here) in this big Aussie city. Jazz clubs, cinema theatres that play European or independent American films are rare as… hen’s teeth, like they say here, Down Under.

But let’s take things from the beginning. Sydney is a beautiful, vibrant, extrovert city, thriving with amazingly nice beaches and lush vegetation parks. The climate is a blessing from heavens; soft winters (no house in Sydney has central heating!) and warm summers with breaks of rains that prevent prolonged heat waves. The yearly percentage of sunshine is incredibly high as well. On the other hand, although it has grown to be a very expensive city, its residents still seem to manage fine somehow, which in turns results in low unemployment and criminality rates. All in all, Sydney seems like the wonderland!

So in such a place, where everyone is happy and always “busy” either working or enjoying the sun and the sea, who really cares about art? What does art have to offer apart from being an alternative form of entertainment? After all isn’t cinema supposed to be a Friday or Saturday evening’s entertainment event, when spectators find themselves sitting in front of huge screens, being exposed to blasting sound effects, consuming their pop-corn and coca-cola drinks and watching movies of sub-zero value what-so-ever? Or, in line with that, isn’t art a means for higher social class people to show off by, say, hanging that expensive, unique painting on their living room wall?

Well, it seems, I think, that art degenerates into forms such as that when it is not driven by a deeper need to convey a strong idea, a burning feeling to change the society towards the better. If life is perfect, or at least as “perfect” as could be claimed to be the case in Sydney, why would anyone for example seek to watch Tarkovsky, Bunuel, Bergman, Truffaut and Fellini and not some Hollywood junk? What could those masterpieces of the Seventh Art possibly have to offer to people that might have never been bothered by the inherent injustice of our political, social and financial structures?

Although by no means I would prefer to sustain, had it been in my hands, social injustice for the sake of art, the very thought that art could degenerate into a technical endeavour stripped of genuine ideas and emotions which would aim only to the superficial satisfaction of our senses, seems quite disturbing to me. Certainly, life might never be perfect (anyway how good does it take to be “perfect”?), so all this contemplation might simply be futile. If humanity however manages to get past its adolescence and establish societies based on a truly sustainable economy, having nothing to do with the profoundly corrupt and inherently unfair current institutions that are fuelled by the greedy desire to maximise monetary profits, regardless of the long-term impact to the environment and the dignity of peoples, would those societies breed artist of the ingenuity of Mozart, Chopin, Tarkovsky, Da Vinci, Picasso and the likes? Seems like it is only time to tell…

In lieu of an epilogue, I have to say that I consider our current civilisation to be extremely far away from “perfection”. In that sense my contemplations about art might seem absurd… They may even be so… It wouldn’t have been bad though to have more authentic art in Sydney!